Friday, March 27, 2009



i just received a call from my friends down at Emory. apparently they have an extra scholarship lying around. and they want to give it to me.

that would be a scholarship + $7000 a year. quite comparable now to my offer at BU.

the only catch is, this scholarship is for students pursuing ordination--which, in my application to Emory, I did not indicate as one of my vocational goals. I've mentioned in a previous post that I wasn't excited enough by my ordination discussion with my pastor to consider beginning candidacy, and didn't feel that my career choices would be limited by remaining a lay minister. that being said, i certainly wasn't intending to completely rule out ordination. before this phone call today, i was planning to keep an open mind in the fall, trusting that my experiences in seminary would open my eyes to specific vocational opportunities and make clear to me the benefits of ordination. in that time, i obviously would listen for the call to ordination to become stronger.

and that's what i told my admissions friend on the phone today, not wanting to lie my way into seven grand, obviously.

my stipulation, then, is this: to contact my UMC district superintendent and begin the early steps in the candidacy process for ordination.

also, i haven't accepted this scholarship, just been offered it. it is my thought that Emory knows the specifics of my offer from BU (I passed along the generics of it) and is leveling the playing field. for which i am SO thankful. i really want to go to Emory. i am visiting Boston this week, and was going to try the visit from an unbiased perspective, but now, quite frankly, BU is going to need to knock my socks off to win me over. which is how it should be--i can compare more comfortably on the scholastic level without $8000 lingering over my shoulder and whispering in my ear.

my question is this--is this God nudging me, not only to attend Emory without any regrets, but also towards the pursuit of ordination? or am I allowing myself to be forced into a decision that I'm not fairly prepared to make? I also wonder, what happens if I still, after undergoing the candidacy process, decide that God truly isn't calling me to ordained ministry--as far as the stipulations of the scholarships dictate? Do I have to pay $21,000 back? And these questions feel so icky to me--mixing God's call and finances. Blech. I pray I will find it in me to make these decisions with a clear conscience and trust the path down which God has again turned my feet. What a beautiful wide open future I have before me! Despite all the decisions to yet be worked out, I rejoice most fully in that!

And I know that, should I accept this scholarship, a lot of these questions can & will be answered. But I ask for your continued prayers & support as I ponder them myself. I'm off to Boston on Monday--so perhaps by this time next week I will know where I'm going to spend the next 3 years of my schooling & my life!

Monday, March 23, 2009

dried apricots

as i sit savoring a cup of tea and favorite snack of apricots (back in my pantry after a noted absence), life itself has been just as sweet.

last night, our attendance was doubled at youth group! we had a great, great night--one of the best since i've been on board, and ironically so because i planned it the afternoon of. which is not at all like me. i guess spontaneity wins the day. originally i was going to plan an ice cream social to welcome our new youth leader, but then my pastor said in two emails and once out loud in church that she would be leading youth Sunday night. i thought she was just super eager to dive in--but when another youth volunteer and i got mixed messages, we asked our pastor if she was, in fact, leading on her very first day on the job, and he said "i have no idea." insert forehead slap here. but all ends well, because i did fall back on the ice cream party, planned a few icebreaker games that turned out quite well, and ended the evening with a prayer of welcome and dodgeball-esque game.

so besides the fact that the YMCA closing staff man (and by man i do mean man--at least 10 or 15 years older than me) tried to get my digits, it was a great night. i'm excited about the enthusiasm of our kids, and will take it as a good sign that our new leader as bolstered attendance by her mere presence. we can only move onwards and upwards!


I've been reading Romans for my b-stud, and it is as refreshing as the spring breeze or as a glass of sweet tea on a hot day. Sorry for the cheesy metaphors, but I think you know what I mean. Don't get me wrong, I love the Gospels (we've been reading straight through the NT), though admittedly I've had enough Acts for awhile--but the poetry of the epistles! The theology! I could journal for pages and pages in reflection over one verse. It's lovely.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

interim ending

my interim youth job will come to a close this weekend after four weeks. even though that is a significantly short period of time, i have learned quite a bit and am thrilled that our youth have a permanent director coming in. the group needs a shot from the defibrillators and i think they're about to get it. i am thankful that the offer has been extended to someone, because as i've described before, i have only been the by-stander watching a patient in crisis without having the tools to give the shock to the system. our youth need a serious overhaul, and as a transitional leader, i wasn't in the place to do it, by any means. now we have someone who will!

but i have learned much in a short time--how to work with parent volunteers, how to look closely at budgets. i've remembered a bit of what it's like to be in high school. i've recognized my own needs for personal growth and leadership development--such as (surprise!) when and how to be assertive.

and i have learned that teenagers, apparently, don't like to stick their feet in paint. (herein lies a story, if you hadn't guessed).

i suppose it's my own fault really--preschoolers will stick their feet in anything. paint, dirt, water, you name it. college kids or adults probably would have gone right along with my idea, and delighted in the subsequent foot-washing exercise. but the teenagers weren't having it.

here's what happened--at our last Sunday night gathering, I had called a "missions meeting" of sorts to hear input about a summer trip and service opportunities in the area. Naturally I wanted the lesson for the night to relate. I started in Romans 10 with the "beautiful feet" passage. To emphasize that idea, we were going to paint our feet and stamp footprints on paper to remind us of our beautiful feet--ie our ability to carry the Gospel to others. Then, since our feet were so conveniently covered in paint, we were going to wash each others feet, and talk about servant leadership from John 13.

BUT...they wouldn't even take their shoes off. suddenly i felt like Wyle E. Coyote having just noticed that he's run off a cliff and subsequently holding up a sign that reads "oh crap"...or something to that effect ;) eventually, with the help of my parent volunteers (who also happened to be parents of 3 of our 6 attendees) they took the shoes off. five minutes later, the socks came off. ten minutes later, after both volunteers completed their footprints by means of example, the first kid stuck her foot in paint. the girls participated of their own accord, but the first guy had his foot shoved into the tray. by this point i clearly realized that they were no way going to touch each others' feet--apparently they had all developed some kind of foot phobia in the span of about 20 minutes. so i offered them the chance to simply have their feet washed by me and the other leaders, if they weren't going to jump at the privilege to fully participate in this event. so i got on my hands and knees and washed some feet. it was awesome--i immediately had that moment of, "oh gross, i'm intimately touching someone else's foot," which was great because I think that's the whole point! i'm upset that the kids weren't able to suck it up and do the washing portion, but i'm so glad they had their feet washed. obviously, we were really able to drive the Scripture reference home. and now we have an awesome poster to remind us of the importance of witness (and to hang on the wall in our youth room when we have a church building someday soon!):

the other shot is of a couple of the boys having their feet washed by the mamas.

i am excited about what is in store for these kids--and there is so much room for growth because our core members are either in 6th or 9th grade. i'm glad i got to know them all a little better, and feel privileged to be part of the process of building up a program for their spiritual growth--i have two months left myself to volunteer under our new hire. I know God is going to do great things.


so much has been happening in the past couple of weeks that I can hardly keep my head from spinning! i'll try to give a brief update. and maybe later tonight, I'll go into a little more depth about how my youth interim job has been going (by tonight i should know whether i'll be working for 2 more weeks or 2 more months!)

first of all, i've had a whirlwind application process with YouthWorks. Yesterday I had a phone interview for 2 hours, and it went so so well! I was nervous because the phone interviews I've had in the past were no more than 30 minutes, and I knew beforehand that this one was supposed to be 1-1.5 hours. But I felt like I was just chatting it up with this guy, for the most part--he made me feel comfortable and conversational. And it's good that I came out of it feeling so positive about the opportunity, because I am being considered for the position of site director, which requires a face-to-face interview! so I will be jet-setting to Minneapolis in two weeks :) for just the day--how very professional of me.

but more about this position--apparently this late in the year, it's pretty much the only job for summer hires that hasn't been filled. and so when they decided to schedule a phone interview with me after reviewing the first half of my application, they were basically just looking at me for this position. it's one that only college grads can fill, it pays more, and requires extra training. it sounds like a big responsibility, but a very rewarding ministry experience! i would be the lead staff at one of the 75 youthworks sites around the country (we find out placements later in april/early may). i would be the supervisor of a staff team. my duties would be managerial and leadership-oriented. i'd be in charge of budget, and act as the liaison with incoming groups. but i would also get to care for the staff team ("check-ups") and still have plenty of time to interact with the youth groups and participate with them in the service opportunities. the guy who interviewed me said he believed this to be the best position because you get to experience a little bit of each type of ministry (inner-city, kids, housing projects, sports camps, etc). i'm excited to have been considered qualified for this job--i can see very clearly that it will stretch me & challenge me in enormous ways, but i think God has this planned (if I get hired, of course) to prepare me for div school and for ministry, and to allow me to be a part of a huge faith experience for teenagers. basically, it seems pretty sweet all around.

speaking of div school, my latest news there is that i have been invited to a scholarship event at Boston University. It is two weeks away (the same week as my YouthWorks interview!) and I am very excited. This is basically the crucial missing piece for my decision for the fall. I absolutely loved everything about Emory, but Boston is offering me $8000 stipend a year--that's hard to turn down. So if BU seems comparable in areas of academia, community, and faith, and I feel that certain connection there as well, then I will probably end up there. But if I don't get that feeling, even $8000 a year isn't worth going to the wrong school for 3 years of your life. One way or the other I have a lot of praying to do.

okay, so, my pastor just walked in for Bible study--and it will be 2 weeks (or so) left for me as interim youth director! more on that later tonight (plenty to say!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

youth, etc

so, I wasn't really intending to stay up this late, but I guess daylight savings time will do that to you. I just spent the last hour or so filling out another summer ministry job application, which is actually pretty exciting. The job is with YouthWorks--google it if you're interested. It would be another youth- and service-oriented ministry. It feels good to have a "backup" to DOOR that I feel good about.

Tonight I took my first official turn as leader of the high school small group. Let me first mention to you the insights that our Sunday night youth gathering brought upon--our youth program is struggling. It has been a roller coaster ride since its inception, I would say, because my experience (what little there was of it) in the youth group was similar to what these kids are experiencing now. Five youth came on Sunday night. We had as many parent volunteers. And let me clearly express that my frustrations were not over the fact that we had an all-youth gathering of merely 5 kids (that's more than I remember being there when I was in high school)--but it's over the fact that these kids deserve better & have been stuck in a rut. We have a youth core that is the youth group. They & their parents have been so faithful to our mission & our fellowship to stick it out through 3 different staff members this year--soon to be on the fourth. I want to help them--but as I mentioned before, I don't feel like it's really my place or within my resource of time to do a complete overhaul & re-gear. Another of my insights on Sunday was that re-gearing this youth group is going to take just that: an overhaul. I am praying even more fervently, alongside our parents, for our permanent worker--and for that person to understand that the job, even though only part-time, is going to take an all-out effort.

I digress. High school small group tonight--me & two freshmen boys. Oh yes! Despite the potential hilarity of this situation, I think it went pretty well. Our opening minutes were spent playing Nintendo, and I won 4 out of 5 races ;) I warned them that Mario Kart was the only game I could beat my brother at. Then we dug into Colossians. It sounds like the small group has been a little bit here & there, and I wanted to settle into a solid Biblical study that wouldn't be too overwhelming. Like my forebearers at Chapel Hill Bible Church and Word-in-Motown small group, we're going to move slower--what we lack in coverage we will gain in understanding. It has appeared to me that that approach hasn't been the case of late, so I'm giving it a whirl. Like I said--I think it went well. These 2 boys are solid, solid good kids. We gathered some background info on the book together, then I had them read the first 14 verses from a Message printout. They engaged with me the whole time, and we definitely hit some real-life apps. And then, totally naturally, we just talked until their ride came to pick them up. Here it is again, that well-loved small, intentional community model cropping up to show me how Christ wants us to build relationships. I'm starting to think that might be important...

Okay, I've become rather long-winded, when my real intent for this post was to share my good news here--though you may have caught it on facebook or via a phone call.

Boston University has awarded me a full tuition scholarship plus an $8000 stipend a year!

I am through the roof over this! It does, however, complicate things because I really, REALLY like Emory. I was quite ready to sign on & start apartment hunting in Atlanta. Suddenly I remember that BU was at the top of my list back during application time. So, my next step of action is to simply wait for the promised BU scholarship packet in the mail, which, if I understand my voicemail message correctly, will contain info about a visit to Boston at the end of the month. That will clearly be an enormous part of this decision I have before me. And I guess, even before that time, I'm going to have to talk with Emory about my present situation, because they want a scholarship decision within the next few weeks themselves.

But overall, AMAZING news! God is so faithful. And I've thought to myself in these past 24 hours how God's provision in this situation is by no means a reflection of anything I've done well--as in, I have no righteous acts to recommend me. I'm still a mist, a vapor, fallen from glory. Instead, God blesses me to be a blessing, as they say. How clearly He is showing me that I am meant to earn this degree, and what's more, I will be equipped for ministry that will bring Him glory & draw hearts & lives into His kingdom. Truly , what a privilege!

Oh, I also bought my first car yesterday....

Saturday, March 7, 2009

social justice?

wow, I know I'm being super-blogger right now, considering that I just posted yesterday & here I am again. But I just read something that I need to respond to in order to lay out my thoughts. I hope you'll listen--it is my feeling that many of you will be able to weigh in on this (whether you agree or disagree).

So, like I said in my post yesterday, I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The chapter that I just completed was titled "Profile of the Lukewarm." Basically, it read like a little personal "quiz" for the reader to determine whether or not his or her faith was lukewarm/halfhearted/partially committed. I thought that this was an excellent self-assessment exercise, and I began scribbling in the margins & trying to be honest with myself. Just for a few examples, the lukewarm descriptions were things like "attends church regularly because it is the good Christian thing to do" and "gauges their morality or goodness by comparison with the secular world." Each description was followed by a passage or two from scripture that was meant to illuminate how each particular way of living was in fact the opposite of what God calls us to. A challenging and enlightening exercise, to be sure.

But then I came to this: "Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven." He goes on to describe how we often get caught up in our to-do lists and schedules--in this way, I totally agree that we shouldn't get bogged down in the day-to-day stresses that often overwhelm our lives, and are of so little relevance in light of eternity. And one of the Scripture verses came from Colossians 3:2: set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.

The danger in this, however, comes in defining what "earthly things" we should and should not dwell upon. Because I believe there are some people, at least in their theologies and ideologies, who focus solely on heaven & the life hereafter. There are some pastors who preach a message, if not of fire & brimstone, of eternity and heaven and our "ticket" in--and those things alone. I believe with my whole heart that Jesus came to save us and prepare a place for us in the eternal kingdom--and spending eternity with God is going to be a sweetness that we can barely fathom, even if we did spend all our time & energy pondering the world to come. BUT I believe that Jesus preached a gospel of His kingdom that begins in the here & now. Not a kingdom or an eternity that starts when we walk through those pearly gates and approach the throne, but a kingdom that He has brought here to this earth. Are we not already living in the promise of eternal life? Does that not mean that life in God's kingdom begins now?

I was rubbed the wrong way by Chan's thoughts because I think there are too many people (ie Christians) in this world who are overwhelmed by the suffering and the brokenness around us, so their prayer times are spent thinking, "beam me up, Jesus!" instead of "what can I do? how can I use the time You've given me here to make changes for the better?" The evil in our world is overwhelming, and this place is not our home--but we are here. And why else would we be here if it weren't to love God by loving others? By being acutely aware of the world around us and living in it. If every Christian were to lock himself up in a monastic cell & await the coming of the kingdom, what good would that be? Jesus definitely wasn't asking us to do that.

I find it odd that "social justice" is a movement within Christianity--not the norm, not the expectation. Did Jesus plan for amped-up college students and inner-city pastors alone to serve the poor & the afflicted? Somehow I don't think so. I truly believe with all my heart that Christ wants us to really be in the world, though not of it. While our hearts are set for His return, for the completion of our sanctification, for eternity in the full presence of God, our hands are here in the world.

"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking at the sky?" Acts 1: 11a

Friday, March 6, 2009

present & future

as promised, UPDATES!

my youth job--I am so pumped up for this weekend! after lots of thinking and planning, I'm ready to get to the doing part. our focus verse for our large group gathering is Jeremiah 1:4-10. I came across this while I was reading Crazy Love (Francis Chan). He referenced the passage, which completely struck a chord with me, especially because the prophet is quoted as saying, "I'm too young." What a perfect message for a youth group when we're going to talk about what it means to be the youth group. I want these teens to hear God's answer to Jeremiah: No! You're not too young--I have called you & set you apart for this very purpose. I will help you speak. You need not fear anyone or anything because you are mine.

We've got a calendar up & running (which, by the way, I succeeded in putting up on the church website, thank you very much), and I can't help but wonder how many of those events I will get to see to fulfillment. I spoke briefly to a member of our hiring committee, and it sounds like they have found a strong candidate for the permanent position. it's just such a strange place to be in--not knowing how far to cast my vision, how much to reorganize, revitalize, and restructure. i want to do my job to the fullest, and be the best youth leader I can be--but it is temporary. perhaps very temporary. and I am thankful for that--because i can't be here past May one way or the other. the youth need someone permanent after such a year of transition. but it's going to be hard to get so jazzed for ministry, only to reign it back in, at least in a certain sense, and pass the buck to someone else, without having held onto it very long myself.

it sounds like i'm doubting whether this work i'm doing will make an impact in such a short time. yet I'm certain that God has great plans for this time, and great plans for our kids.

Emory visit--Atlanta is starting to look like a real nice place to spend the next 3 years! My event at Candler was phenomenal--we were treated like royalty! Over the course of the visit, I met & interacted one-on-one with faculty, felt like the admissions staff were my new best friends, toured around the city & beautiful campus, worshiped in an amazing space with great ecumenical awareness, sat in on a few classes in small settings, visited a potential contextual education site, and met some amazing fellow applicants--hopefully some will soon be fellow classmates! It was so nice to interact with people whose current goals, ideals, vocational aspirations, and beliefs were so like my own, but at the same time, we all had different stories to tell & different things to bring to the table. I can't wait for that community full-time!

Full-tuition scholarships aside, Emory is sitting pretty at the top of my list right now. And I've crossed Dook off the list. The program at Emory is so much more what I am looking for, in every way. Their focus is broader--I can go there & get a certificate in religious education AND spend my ecclesial contextual education setting in a Christian school. At Duke, I was made to feel like an oddity because I am not seeking ordination. The heart of Candler--what they're all about, seems so in line with what my heart is seeking. I almost wonder if I should even prolong my decision to wait for BU scholarship decisions or Princeton admittance. Even in all the non-essential details, Atlanta has an advantage--warmer & closer to home. And they have sweet tea.

summer--I've applied for an urban ministry/youth ministry job this summer, as I've mentioned here before. No real updates there--just that my application & references have been received as complete. Here's my conundrum, though. This job is EXACTLY what I was looking to do this summer--but I'm wondering if I should apply elsewhere. It's scary to throw all of yourself at one opportunity. What happens if it doesn't work out? I NEED to get away from Charlotte and go live & experience a bit more of the world. So do I search for other ministry jobs & spend my time apply to them, even as second-hand choices? Just to make sure that I have a place to serve (in a place that will keep me sane)? Opinions welcome :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


what a sweet feeling to rest secure in knowing that your feet have finally found the path of God's will. divinity school is where God is leading me. and perhaps (in fact, most probably), God is leading me specifically to Emory University, because....

they. have. offered. me. a. full. tuition. scholarship


i am absolutely knocked over sideways by God's provision for this step of my journey. i have been abundantly blessed & am eager to step forward in pursuit of serving the God who holds nothing back.

more soon, i promise. there is plenty to tell.